White didn't stumble into game-changing play


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Melvin White didn't just stumble into the interception that propelled the Carolina Panthers to the NFC South title on Sunday, even though the rookie cornerback did stumble into the end zone.

It was the result of hours and hours of film study.

“We just knew from film study when they get inside the numbers, they like to run quick outs,'' said White, who returned the interception eight yards for the touchdown. "I read it, and just went with it.''

The play came midway through the second quarter with the Panthers (12-4) trailing 10-0. From quarterback Cam Newton to cornerback Drayton Florence, Carolina players agreed that was the play that swung momentum.

That it came from an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette made it all the more impressive.

But it shouldn't come as a surprise. Other than a rough outing in a Monday night game against the New England Patriots in which White's future as a starter came into question, White has played like a seasoned veteran.

"I had a rough game -- the pass interference and the hands-to-the-face penalties,” White said of the New England game. “Even though I had that type of game, [my teammates] were still behind me 100 percent.

"Nothing changed. Once I knew they had my back, that they didn’t treat me any different, and then I was sure I was home.”

Free safety Mike Mitchell said everything about White projects maturity beyond his years.

"Melvin and his maturity, his progression, everything about that guy is outstanding,'' he said. "He's a very humble, hard-working guy. A small school guy, and he just rises up to the occasion.

"We were getting beat. We needed momentum. We needed a play. A huge play for him.''

Had quarterback Matt Ryan opted to throw the pass to the inside of the receiver, the Panthers had that covered as well.

"If he had threw it inside I would have got it, because we were both jumping it,'' Mitchell said with a smile.

White gives much of the credit for his success to veterans such as Mitchell and Florence. In particular, he said Florence has taken him under his wings and taught him how to be a professional on and off the field.

"Six-foot, long arms, he's got all the right tools,'' Florence said. "My main thing was helping him in the film room, teaching him how to look for certain looks, how to dissect plays, how to dissect coaches to know what kind of offense they're going to run.

"He's been great. There aren't many rookies starting on a championship division team at corner.''

There is one area Florence said White could use more help.

The celebration.

After scoring, White ran toward the goal post and attempted to dunk the ball over the goal post. He got the height, but lost the ball on the way up.

"He really made the play to turn the whole game around,'' Florence said. "The celebration was a little weak.''